Although this month takes a look at some of the titles I personally consider "essential Schwarzenegger" titles, I do heavily consider this particular title to be the one and only king of them. I would say 'True Lies' is my favorite, but if you want full Arnold, this is definitely the place to go. To put it another way, I'm fairly convinced this was the movie that really inspired the Rainier Wolfcastle character on 'The Simpsons'. Yes, he was obviously based on Arnold, but I think it's this particular Arnold they were going for.
For a quick plot synopsis, we open the film, and are eventually introduced to former Colonel John Matrix (Schwarzenegger). He is living a happy, retired life with his daughter, Jenny (Alyssa Milano). It's interrupted quickly, however, when his former superior Major General Franklin Kirby (James Olson) informs him that the members of his former unit have been killed by unknown mercenaries. Said mercs raid John's home and kidnap Jenny, lead by Bennett (Vernon Wells); an ex-member of John's team that was discharged for excessive violence.
John is eventually overpowered and captured, but this ends up being a big mistake. With his daughter's life on the line, John Matrix eventually manages to escape, and enlist the help of random off-duty flight attendant named Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong). Now John will stop at nothing to rescue his daughter, and put an end to Bennett and his henchmen. So basically what we have here is a no holds barred revenge plot involving the biggest action hero of the 80s in his prime. If someone was to ask me who Schwarzenegger is, I would tell them watch 'Commando', as I find it to be the quintessential Schwarzenegger movie.
If we think of him in a stereotypical light, I'd say this is the role that really shows it. He's muscle-bound, powerful, full of guns and ammo, shoots but never gets shot, he's got the accent, and above all else, some of the best one-liners of his career. That alone is what makes this movie so damn fun. it's not just a stereotype of an Arnie flick, it's a stereotype of an early action movie. It's got to be within the top 10, or maybe even top 5 action flicks of the 80s, and with good reason. This isn't something that keeps you on the edge of your seat so much as it makes you laugh along with it as well as cheer him on. It's cheesy, but it's what 80s action movies were all about.
It would be fairly easy for someone to be new to this today and find that it hasn't aged well - but one should also know that's what makes it so good. In many ways, it captures the cheesy awesomeness that was 1980s action. Things were off the wall and dammit, we liked it like that. These are the same reasons I appreciate franchises like 'Fast & Furious' nowadays - yes, it's ridiculous, but sometimes reality isn't really asked for in these types of flicks. There's insulting the audience, but then there's just having fun with them, and that's what this does so incredibly well. It's an era of filmmaking I think a lot of us miss. They can get away with it now, sure, but it's not quite as tolerated as it used to be. This kind of thing, along with a lot of the corny 80s slashers, was just something to lose our minds and eat popcorn to.
Well, it's a short review, but there's not much more to say about it than what I keep saying about it already. It's just awesome, mindless fun, and a good laugh. If you're on the lookout for almost definitive films of the 80s, I would highly recommend this title as a place to turn. It is pure Schwarzenegger through and through, and the man might as well have been a golden statue back in the 80s representing the action genre. If that statue had to hold the film that best represented him, this would be my pick.